Most of the time, you think of the depth chart for an NFL team as a reflection of who is likely to start and who the primary backups are.
In 2012, coming up with a depth chart for the Dallas Cowboys during pre-season has become more an exercise in trying to find enough healthy bodies to put on the field. After losing rookie OLB Kyle Wilber in the Oakland Raiders game to a broken thumb that should keep him out for about a month, the team found out that star TE Jason Witten suffered an injured spleen that is going to keep him sidelined for at least a week to ten days. And on Wednesday, rookie ILB Caleb McSurdy suffered a possible tear or rupture of his Achilles tendon, which probably means he is out for the season.
Looking forward to the San Diego Chargers game on Saturday, there are many players who are out or are at least questionable. There are starters missing, draft picks and free agents the team was depending on who cannot go, and players who needed a chance to prove themselves in pre-season action to have a chance to make the team who now are watching their opportunity slip away from the sidelines.
A look at where things stand after the jump.
As best I can tell, these are the primary positions that will be affected against the Bolts.
Tight end. Obviously, when Jason Witten is not on the field, it is a different Cowboys team. Not only is one of the best tight ends ever missing, but Tony Romo has to play without his favorite safety blanket. John Phillips, the current number two, is still recovering from his own injury but will hopefully be available. James Hanna has a huge opportunity to claim a spot on the roster.
Running Back. Phillip Tanner, who should be the number three back, is still missing time. Given the history of injury to DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones, he really needs his reps on the field to make sure the team has a reliable backup.
Center. Phil Costa was still not practicing today due to his back issues. He is not projected to be back on Saturday, which means the David Arkin and Harland Gunn experiments continue. Pat McQuistan was seen at center with the third team in Wednesday's practice.
Guard. Nate Livings is still working on the sidelines. He looks good for a return next week, but not this coming game. In a move that impacts both guard and center, Bill Nagy has been waived/injured in anticipation of him going on IR, ending his season. He was reported to have had surgery on his ankle today.
Wide receiver. Danny Coale reported tightness in his quadriceps today. He stated to reporters that it was not a setback in recovering from his broken foot, but it kept him off the field - again. His status is unsure for Saturday, and with Miles Austin's hamstring is still surrounded by a SWAT team to make sure it doesn't get hurt more, the receiving corps looks like it will again be Dez Bryant and all those other guys who can't seem to seize the opportunity.
Linebacker. Wilber and McSurdy are definitely out. Orie Lemon was out of practice with a minor neck problem. Anthony Spencer is still trying to get back on the field. At one point I saw a tweet that said the Cowboys only had eight linebackers total that were able to get on the field, out of thirteen in camp. Just as Hanna has an enormous opportunity right now, Alex Albright may be able to nail down his roster spot if he can stay off injured lists.
It has been a terrible pre-season for the Dallas Cowboys as far as injures are concerned. If I were superstitious, I would think there was some kind of a curse. And that kind of thinking is only encouraged when I see two tweets like the following. In sequence, one right after the other in my feed.
Sixth-round pick James Hanna and seventh-round pick Caleb McSurdy are only drafted rookies to stay healthy as Cowboys.— Carlos A. Mendez (@calexmendez) August 15, 2012
Caleb mcsurdy is down. He hurt his left leg. Slammed his helmet down.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) August 15, 2012
And the injuries are not the kind of thing that can be attributed to a particular cause, like poor conditioning. Coale and McSurdy just look like freak things. Witten obviously took a hard hit. Claiborne and Mackenzy Bernadeau came to the team injured. The other rookie injuries, like Johnson's, certainly cannot be attributed to anything the Cowboys did.
This is just something the team has to try to withstand. It is not enjoyable, and it makes it doubly hard to figure out just how competitive the Cowboys are going to be. But it also means that you want to watch everyone in the pre-season games. You never know when they may be shooting up the depth chart due to injury.
All of which leads us to the following injury-adjusted depth chart, status per today:
|POS||Player 1||Player 2||Player 3||Others||Injured|
|LWR||Bryant||Beasley||Benford||Kemp, Little||Coale (Foot)|
|RWR||Ogletree||Harris||Holmes||Radway, Hakim||Austin (Hamstring)|
|C||Arkin||Gunn||Costa (Back), Kowalski (Ankle)|
|RB||Murray||Jones||Williams||Wesley||Tanner (Hand), Dunbar (Hamstring)|
|LILB||Carter||Connor||McSurdy (Achilles), Greenhouse (Hand)|
The Cowboys currently have 15 players in various states of injury. Some will be back at practice soon, some won't. There's a lot of uncertainty all over the team as injuries continue to mount, and it is hard to know who will be available for which practice and which game.